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A long-awaited Brexit deal could be brokered within a week, senior EU leader Donald Tusk has claimed.
Sparking fervent denials from Downing Street, the European Council President told Channel 4 News on Thursday there could be a breakthrough in negotiations in as little as “maybe five, maybe six, maybe seven days”.
His comments came on the same day Austrian newspapers reported that Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier could meet over the next few days to seal an agreement.
But Downing Street attempted to pour cold water on the claims of a weekend deal, stressing that no agreement had yet been reached.
“We are still in negotiations, and on that basis we don’t know when and if this will conclude,” a spokesman said, adding that a much-rumoured Cabinet meeting to allow ministers to sign off the deal had not been scheduled.
Meanwhile, a senior government source said that any reports in the European media that a deal could come in the next few days should be taken “with a very large pinch of salt”.
The comment came ahead of a report in The Times on Friday which claimed that a leaked letter from Theresa May showed that Brussels plan to put a customs border in the Irish sea in case of a no-deal Brexit would be included in a divorce deal.
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It comes after the PM last month told MPs that 95% of the deal had been agreed, with the key sticking point of the “backstop” to prevent a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland remaining unresolved.
May’s plan would see the whole UK effectively agree to remain in the customs union to help avoid a hard border with Ireland as a backstop if no other arrangement can be found.
However, fears that this could become a permanent settlement led the Labour Party and Tory Brexiteers – including Environment Secretary Michael Gove – to demand that May publishes the full legal advice setting out how the arrangement could be ended.
While Dominic Grieve wrote to Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill calling for government documents explaining the final withdrawal agreement to be made public, former Brexit Secretary said how the UK could exit from the customs union must be “pinned down” before MPs and peers vote on the deal.